By Joby Warrick and R. Jeffrey Smith
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, March 20, 2009
As a novice CIA case officer in the Middle East, Andrew Warren quickly learned the value of sex in recruiting spies. Colleagues say that he made an early habit of taking informants to strip clubs, and that he later began arranging out-of-town visits to brothels for his best recruits. Often Warren would travel with them, according to two colleagues who worked with him for years.
His methods earned him promotions and notoriety over a lengthy career, until Warren, 41, became ensnared in a sex scandal. Two Algerian women have accused the Virginia native of drugging and sexually assaulting them, and, in one instance, videotaping the encounter.
Six weeks after the allegations came to light, Warren has been formally notified by CIA Director Leon E. Panetta of his impending dismissal, according to U.S. government officials familiar with the case. But the episode -- one of three sex-related scandals to shake the CIA this year -- has drawn harsh questions from Congress about whether the agency adequately polices its far-flung workforce or takes sufficient steps to root out corrupt behavior.
The CIA says that these problems involve a tiny fraction of its workforce, and that those found to have breached rules are punished or fired. But former officers say the cases underscore a perennial challenge: guarding against scandal in a workforce -- the size of which is classified but is generally estimated to be 20,000 -- that prides itself on secrecy and deception.
"You have an organization of professional liars," said Tyler Drumheller, who oversaw hundreds of officers as chief of the agency's European division. Experienced field managers are needed, he said, because inevitably "some people will try to take advantage of the system . . . and it's a system that can be taken advantage of."
The allegations against Warren drew an angry blast from the Senate panel that oversees the CIA. "The alleged activities are completely unacceptable," committee leaders Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Christopher S. Bond (R-Mo.) said in a joint statement last month. Feinstein also criticized the CIA for what she said was not promptly informing Congress about the case, given its potential to damage U.S. relations with Algeria.
Repeated attempts in recent weeks to contact Warren through relatives were unsuccessful.
The recent string of embarrassing revelations started with the CIA's former No. 3 officer, Kyle "Dusty" Foggo, who was indicted on corruption charges two years ago. Court documents released in recent weeks depict Foggo as bullying the office of the agency's general counsel into giving a job to his mistress, whose subsequent performance reviews were subpar.
Last month, agency officials confirmed the firing of Steve Levan, a 16-year veteran who pleaded guilty to misusing CIA credit cards. Levan, an analyst, worked at the agency's headquarters for the No. 2 official, Stephen R. Kappes. As part of his plea agreement, Levan acknowledged obtaining credit card numbers assigned to undercover operatives and using them to run up bills surpassing $115,000. Much of the money was spent on hotel rooms and gifts for a mistress, according to two agency officials familiar with the case. He is awaiting sentencing this spring.
Michael S. Nachmanoff, Levan's attorney, declined to comment on the case. In a pre-sentencing motion filed last week, Nachmanoff said the judge should consider his client's strong record of service for the CIA -- a record the agency had declined to release, he said.
But the most damaging revelations involved Warren, an Arabic speaker and Middle East specialist who was on a rapid ascent after CIA postings in Kuwait, Iraq, Egypt and Algeria. He most recently served as Algiers station chief. But the State Department ordered him home in October after two Algerian nationals alleged that he assaulted them in separate incidents at his apartment.
The women told State Department investigators that Warren assaulted them after giving them drug-laced drinks that made them pass out. State referred the matter to the Justice Department, where an investigation is ongoing. Warren has not been charged.
While looking into the allegations, U.S. officials discovered in Warren's apartment more than two dozen video recordings that he apparently made of his sexual encounters, according to news accounts and two U.S. officials familiar with the investigation. One of the women behind the rape allegations appears in one of the videos, the officials said.
Current and former agency officials say that Warren and Levan were considered competent professionals with stellar work records, qualities that perhaps explain why their alleged misdeeds would have gone undetected.
"The fact of the matter is that the thousands of people who work at CIA are exceptionally dedicated, and cases of impropriety are extremely rare," agency spokesman Mark Mansfield said. When there are such cases, he said, the CIA "looks into the allegations, follows up on them and cooperates fully with law enforcement authorities."
Several colleagues of Warren's, though, spoke of warning signs that might have alerted the CIA sooner. Some who worked with him over several years said they were particularly concerned about the frequency of Warren's use of strip clubs and other sex-related establishments for recruiting. The former officers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the agency does not allow them to discuss their CIA work publicly, said they were not surprised by the assault allegations.
As CIA case officers attempt to recruit a foreign spy, they often offer personal inducements, ranging from cash to medical care. In some cases, a potential recruit may be taken to a strip club or even to a prostitute if it is deemed critical to cementing the relationship, longtime officers say. But for Warren, "it was a lifestyle thing," costing the agency thousands of dollars, said one former co-worker who describes himself as a friend. The bills were routinely paid, he said.
"As long as you were doing good work, it was okay," he said.
A. John Radsan, a former CIA assistant general counsel, said there are internal guidelines and structures -- including the CIA inspector general's office and a separate review board that oversees clandestine operations -- that are intended to guard against scandal. In reality, he said, it is a self-regulating system with few incentives for reporting bad behavior.
"You want a culture that values innovation and creativity and doesn't mind violating the laws of other countries, but at the same time, you want a culture of compliance and honesty," Radsan said. "It is a built-in contradiction."
The agency's internal management practices were also called into question last month during court proceedings for Foggo, who served as the top CIA administrator from November 2004 to May 2006.
A lengthy prosecution memo, made public over the objections of Foggo's attorneys, listed a series of ethical alarms that did not prevent his reaching the agency's highest ranks. Two personnel reports in 1989, for example, noted that Foggo "takes a very liberal and self-serving position regarding the interpretation of Agency rules and regulations" and warned that "he is likely to remain a potential threat to security through his poor judgment."
In a court filing last month, Foggo's attorneys said that their client has "committed his life to public service" and that his dedication and skills justified his promotions. They declined to comment further yesterday.
"Foggo was never a truly honest public servant" during his 24 years in the CIA, three prosecutors wrote in their memo to a federal judge in Alexandria shortly before Foggo was sentenced to 37 months in prison for corrupting the agency's contracts. "He spent years defrauding the country."
When Foggo manipulated agency contracts in 2003 and 2005, his colleagues and subordinates did not act on their suspicions of wrongdoing, the prosecutors said. Instead, they demonstrated a persistent reluctance to challenge authority that seems at odds with the climate of dissent and debate that the agency says it encourages.
After a former colleague of Foggo's who had become his mistress was turned down for a job in the general counsel's office, Foggo, who was the CIA's executive director, called an associate general counsel into his office and "grew increasingly loud in tone and condescending," according to a memo the counsel placed in her files. "[S]peaking in the third person, [Foggo] said, among other things, that when the EXDIR has an interest in a candidate for employment that I had better respect the EXDIR's interest."
The mistress was subsequently hired after an accelerated security check, because her paperwork was tagged "ExDir interest." When her failure to perform required duties provoked her supervisor's complaints, Foggo arranged for the supervisor -- a 20-year veteran who had won many performance awards -- to be ousted and moved to the Defense Department. The supervisor alleged in a court affidavit that her ouster was retaliatory.
Staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.